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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Lake Superior: Edge Of Forever

The incredible expanse of the midwestern Great Lake is captured in the dramatic black-and-white imagery of Peter Scott Eide

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lake superior
“Serpent”—This shot was taken at sunrise under overcast skies on the shores of Ontario. It’s common to find uprooted trees from recent storms deposited by the waves of Lake Superior in large coves like this one.
Lake Superior is the most expansive freshwater lake in the world. Largest of the Great Lakes, its massive lake bed contains 10 percent of the world’s fresh surface water, and the shoreline itself is comprised of more than 2,700 miles. There are more than 200 rivers feeding in and out of the region, and some of the islands located within Lake Superior contain lakes themselves. The natural environment of Lake Superior is so immense that the opportunities it provides photographers for exploration can’t be understated.

Photographer Peter Scott Eide’s new book, Edge of Forever: Images of Lake Superior (Monolith Publications, 2008), is a beautiful black-and-white chronicle of the unequaled terrain of the area. A native Wisconsinite, Eide says that as a young boy he was awestruck by the uniqueness of the landscape, and even after he had grown up and left for school, the lake always was a vivid memory that he would come back to, time and time again.

“Lake Superior is carved straight from the Ice Age,” muses Eide, “and it’s still such a pristine landscape because the majority of the shoreline is either state- or province-owned, and a lot of it, especially over on the Canadian side, is completely untapped.

The clarity of the water, the scale of the landscape, the ruggedness and primitive aspects of it—these are all part of the adventure of camping along its shores. So when I moved back into the area, I started going back up there and began photographing, and it evolved itself into an ongoing passion, constantly digging a little deeper, and finding new things and new sections to shoot.

lake superior
“Wild World”—Ice shards built up over time compose this surreal landscape off the shores of Lake Superior along Northern Minnesota.
“It’s such a unique landscape that way,” Eide continues. “There are sections that have really distinctive features to them. In Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, you have beautiful sandstone cliffs, with the constant erosion that plays with that, and long sand-filled shorelines that culminate with the Grand Sable Dunes. Further north, into Canada, the terrain goes from Michigan’s smooth sandstone to the jagged and rugged texture of volcanic rock, and also soaring granite cliffs, the highest elevation points along the entire Lake Superior shoreline. Minnesota’s north shore combines a little of all of these elements, and Wisconsin contains the Apostle Islands. It’s all different, which makes it a lot of fun. There is a lot of visual candy.”

Beneath The Surface

“I just love film,” Eide laughs when asked why he prefers black-and-white film for the lake. “I’ll always shoot film until I can’t get it anymore. If you’re a sculptor, you’re using metal or clay, and if you’re a painter, you’re using pigment and a brush. And for me, it’s about film and emulsion and exposure. I guess I’ll be one of those silly people that uses film until it’s no longer feasible. It’s a psychological thing.

“I have also shot in color,” he notes, “but for this particular subject, there is something so primitive, and black-and-white does it justice in that sense. Lake Superior is beautiful in color, as well, but sometimes the colors draw your eye more than the composition. Black-and-white levels everything down and also gives it that added drama that I think is present in the Lake Superior landscape.”

Shooting with film also makes Eide slow down to perfect a composition before he ever clicks the shutter. “I think digital is wonderful,” he says. “I have a lot of friends that have converted to digital, and it’s certainly, in the end, going to be the way photography will be, but you know what I really love about film? The one thing that I don’t want, and it would be hard with digital, is that I don’t want to see my image. I like the anticipation of not seeing it for a while. I like the challenge of capturing it. I don’t bracket a lot. I’ll take one or two shots, then go back and have it developed, and then not see it for a while. For me, I don’t want that much feedback. I want to be able to visualize what I want to capture, give it a run, and be done with it.”


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